Monday, November 30, 2009

Closed Captioning on Densho's YouTube Channel

Google recently announced new technologies to make Closed Captioning easier on YouTube. The YouTube video player has been able to display Closed Captions for some time but only for those videos that have time-coded transcripts, which are rather tedious to construct from scratch. In their attempt to make this easier, Google developed “auto-time” that will match spoken words with written words to create a time-coded Closed Caption file. It relies on voice recognition technology to match sound to text and generates appropriately sized phrases for display at the bottom of the video frame.

I tried this out on the videos we have on Densho’s YouTube channel and found auto-time to work surprisingly well. The fact that I was able to quickly take advantage of Google’s new auto-time technology is a testament to Densho’s process to transcribe completely every video interview as they are captured. Because we have the full transcription available I could easily use Google’s auto-time to insert the time-coding data.

Auto-time doesn’t do a flawless job but it comes pretty close. Fortunately, YouTube allows you to download the generated time-coded file to make corrections or for use in other ways.
Google also announced “auto-cap” that will generate transcripts automatically. It hasn’t been generally released yet but looks like it may be useful for a rough first-pass approximation. It’s not quite up to the quality standards we aim for with Densho interviews so we’ll no doubt continue with manual transcriptions for some time.

Adding Closed Captions to Densho’s videos makes it possible for us to reach an even wider audience including the hearing impaired and even non-English speakers because Google is also working on automatic translation of Closed Captions to other languages. Just imagine, somewhere off in the not-too-distant future, people in every country will be able to enjoy Densho’s rich collection of stories in their own language.
In the meantime, I invite you to check out the videos on Densho’s YouTube channel, now with Closed Captioning!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Camp Harmony - Author Event

Densho is hosting a book event on December 3 at the Wing Luke Asian Museum in Seattle's Chinatown-International District neighborhood. Join us for a talk at 6:30pm by Louis Fiset as he discusses his latest book, Camp Harmony: Seattle's Japanese Americans and the Puyallup Assembly Center, the first in-depth study of a single "assembly center," or temporary detention camp.

"Camp Harmony" (we wonder who chose that unlikely name) was the destination of some 7,000 Japanese Americans removed from Seattle and other locations, who were then shipped to the Idaho desert to spend years at Minidoka. Fiset is author of Imprisoned Apart: The World War II Correspondence of an Issei Couple, about the nature-loving husband and wife featured in Ken Burns's recent series on the national parks.

Copies of the book will be sold at the museum's gift shop. The event is free, as is admission to the museum that evening. We hope to see you there.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Oral History Workshop - Not How, But Why

Last Saturday, Densho executive director Tom Ikeda, with communications director Patricia Kiyono, led an oral history workshop for 15 participants. Unlike how-to trainings, Tom designed this workshop to examine the uses of oral history after the tape recorder or digital camera stops running. Why record the details of someone's life? How do you store, retrieve, and share your subject's story, whether your subject is important to national history or family history? What are the technical, ethical, legal, archival considerations in collecting personal experiences and emotions for strangers to assess in coming decades?
Tom shared Densho's 14-year evolution from interviews of uneven quality conducted by volunteers to life histories drawn out by professionals. Some decisions made early on, like the choice to fully transcribe every video life history, have increased the value of the collection. As technology evolves, the means of delivery keep increasing: from Densho's website to online exhibitions, FaceBook, YouTube, and the next unidentified application.

The "why" question is easy for Densho to answer. Like oral history projects that captured narratives of ex-slaves, Holocaust survivors, refugees of wars, or civil rights pioneers, the stories of Japanese Americans unjustly incarcerated by their own government are valued by historians and defenders of human rights.

The diverse workshop participants plan to collect oral histories about Hurricane Katrina, interviews with international school children, and the stories of their own parents. Tom urged participants to research first, execute well, and carry through with results that benefit their given audience. For Densho, that means students, teachers, historians, journalists, documentary makers, museum curators, book publishers, and the general public.

Thank you to 4Culture for funding in support of this project. In response to demand, Densho will present future oral history workshops to help people capture their communities' human heritage.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Microsoft Alumni Foundation Gala

For the last two days I have been involved in a flurry of activities around the Microsoft Alumni Foundation’s Integral Fellows award. Although I did not win, I was honored to be a finalist and participate in the inaugural awards ceremony. It was a front row seat to learn about some of the great things that other Microsoft alumni are doing to change the world. It was both humbling and inspiring.

This morning I participated in a panel discussion at Microsoft that was moderated by Bill Drayton, one of the award judges and the founder of Ashoka. His concepts of social entrepreneurship and the nurturing of changemakers to improve the world lifted my spirits to think that people around the world were working together to make positive changes. Thanks to all who sent me congratulations and encouraging words! Below is a short video that was used to introduce me at the event.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tom Ikeda Nominated for Microsoft Alumni Foundation Integral Fellows Award

Densho's executive director, Tom Ikeda, is honored to be selected as a finalist for the first Microsoft Alumni Foundation Integral Fellows Award. Over 150 Microsoft alumni have started and run non-profit organizations with the dream of using what they learned at Microsoft to make a difference in the world. Of Microsoft alumni around the globe, sixty-five were nominated and six finalists have been chosen for having created something extraordinary, often with limited resources, while embodying the values of the Microsoft Alumni Foundation. An esteemed panel of judges including President Jimmy Carter will select the winners. On November 18, at the Microsoft Alumni Foundation Founders Gala, Bill and Melinda Gates will award the first Integral Fellow Award to up to three individuals who will receive $25,000 for their nonprofits as well as dedicated support from the Microsoft Alumni Foundation. Congratulations to all the finalists.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Profile in Courage: George Sakato and a Belated Medal of Honor

"I'm no hero, but I wear it for the guys that didn't come back." -- George "Joe" Sakato

George T. Sakato is the great-great-great-grandson of a samurai. Perhaps that explains his father's choice of a birth name. Sakato says, "Dad wanted to call me Jyotaro Sakato, after a sword-bearer for Musashi samurai." But when the doctor submitted the vital statistics for the baby, "Jyotaro" became "George." An unassuming man, Densho's interviewee says simply, "All my life I've been called Joe." On October 29, 1944, in the Vosges Mountains of France, Private Joe Sakato's warrior ancestry saw him through a critical juncture in the storied Battle of the Lost Battalion.

Read more of this article.